Today’s News & Commentary — August 12, 2019
On Friday, Oregon became the first state to offer 100% wage replacement for minimum-wage workers. The state will provide 12 weeks paid time off to new parents, survivors of domestic violence, and those who need to care for a family member, significant other, or any other “close associate.” Oregon’s law covers both undocumented and part-time workers. Benefits will begin to pay out in 2023. Even though Oregon has adopted “one of the most inclusive and equitable paid leave laws in the country,” the state has been at odds with union leaders over legislation that diverts the salaries of state and local government workers to pay down the state’s $27 billion pension debt. On Friday, nine public employees petitioned the Oregon Supreme Court to review the retirement-benefit cuts. The Oregon Supreme Court has twice struck down cuts to public employee retirement benefits, ruling that the state cannot rescind money promised to retired employees.
The New York Times delved into the conflict between re-entry nonprofits and unions. Re-entry nonprofits, like the Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO), find jobs for people coming out of prison. While these organizations are helpful in combating recidivism, the vast majority of their construction placements are with nonunion firms that pay little and often provide no benefits. The director of organizing for Local 79, Chaz Rynkiewicz commented, “You’re cutting pay, cutting benefits, and you’re using an easily exploitable model — which is the re-entry population — to do it.”
The NLRB’s notice of proposed rulemaking demonstrates its intent to change at least three key recognition rules. The NLRB wishes to change its “blocking charge” policy so that elections will go forward even when unions or employers file unfair labor practice charges. The ballots will instead be impounded pending the resolution of the charges. The NLRB would also like to reinstate Dan Corp.’s 45-day window to request a decertification election following voluntary recognition and to require evidence of majority employee support before a union in the construction industry can have a full bargaining relationship with an employer. The sole Democratic NLRB member, Lauren McFerran, opposes all three of the proposed rules.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the actions of states and large employers will soon render the federal minimum wage irrelevant. Only 0.28% of American workers, most under 25 years old, earned federal minimum waste last year. Since President Trump and most Republicans are not interested in raising the minimum wage, the federal minimum wage will likely continue to stagnate.
A University of Minnesota study found that people who are offered more generous unemployment benefits take longer to find new jobs. However, these people tend to end up with stronger mental health and better quality jobs at the end of their search.